Monday, September 24, 2018

Welcome Fall & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  After working in town last week, I ran errands... the bank, groceries, and a soap delivery.  At the grocery store, I found 1 lb. pasta 5/$5 and bought 2.  I also bought a bouquet, which was marked down to $2.49.  Though I do have a few flowers left, they're looking quite straggly after the storm, and I kind of like leaving the ones I have in the landscape to cheer me for a few weeks longer.  I picked up books I had requested at the library.  When I was putting groceries away, I noticed some dishes I had frozen previously, and it seemed a perfect time to use them.  Along with leftover vegi loaf, we had spanakopita and eggplant crumble from the freezer.  More freezer room is always a good thing.

Another of our stored watermelons was cut, and not surprisingly, the middle was soft.  McNibs and I shared some good bits, then I brought it out to the chickens for a treat.  Our tomatoes were used in vegi BLT's.  My summer slippers needed a wash, but are too fragile for the machine, so I used some homemade soap gel, scrubbed them with a brush, and hung them on the line. I'm thankful that there are still jars of tomatoes on the pantry shelf from the past couple of years.  This will be one of those years that there were just not enough tomatoes to can.  The majority of the tomatoes are dying from all the recent rains, as well as one of the basil plants, both of the sweet peppers, and our green bean posts fell over with all the wet.  I'll be surprised if we get any more squash, as they're looking very sad.  Okra is still producing some, and it looks like we'll get more eggplant.  Our recently planted cucumbers have blooms, so it's possible we may get more cucumbers before first frost.  It looks like about half of the fall lettuce seedlings have rotted.

sweet potatoes drying under the carport
After an out of town appointment, I stopped at a thrift store I pass, but didn't find anything I needed.  We shared okra, pawpaws and eggplant with friends.  Our eggs and homemade bread crumbs were used in a broccoli quinoa dish.  I've heard and read good things about celery juice, so have been giving it a try, drinking it some mornings.  The celery pulp from the juicer goes into the broth bag.  J dug our sweet potato crop, which we then harvested.  We usually wait until the first frost is forecast, but ants and other critters have been munching on them, so he decided to get them now.  We got a bigger harvest than expected.  Though some were partially eaten and others were cut, we should still have a gracious plenty to eat through the winter.  The hummingbirds have been at the feeders, often with two fighting over the same feeder, though there is another feeder.  I'm sure they'll soon be flying to warmer climes.

Last week, a potter friend gifted me a beautiful spoon rest.  It's such a pleasure to enjoy handmade things in my daily homemaking tasks.  Another friend gifted me several canning jars and two shirts.  I took the leggings out of the dye pot.  When I rinsed them, they sadly lost lost much of their color.  I'm going to keep at this, maybe trying oak galls next.  I'm wanting a nice deep mottled brown, so we'll see.  After Florence, many leaves fell.  Along the walking path, it's beginning to smell like autumn, that lovely spicy scent of decaying plants and leaves.  It's looking more like fall too, with asters blooming and hearts-a-bustin' along the paths.  We had to make some changes to our upcoming road trip due to Florence.  It's always good to be flexible.   I'm so looking forward to cooler days and lower humidity.  Wishing you a lovely first week of autumn.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hurricane Florence & Frugal Accomplishments

monarch chrysalis on lambs quarter, close to emerging
Hello, friends.  Monday morning, after some searching in the garden, I found a monarch chrysalis on lambs quarter, as well as what I think may be red admiral chrysalises on stinging nettles.  When I went by a couple of hours later, the monarch had emerged, and was drying it's wings.  A couple of checks later, it was gone, hopefully flying off to a safe place.  Thankfully, the storm has weakened, and though we'll get wind and rain, it will not be to the extent as originally forecast.  Several of J's extended family, further east, are without power and dealing with flooding.  In these days of technology, we're thankfully able to talk or message with them, and know they are OK, even though one family had to leave their home due to flooding.

Pasta Norma was made with our eggplant, tomatoes and herbs, and caprese salad with our basil and tomatoes to go with it.  Some deep cleaning and decluttering was done.  I went through my jewelry box, and put aside a bag to be donated, as well as a pile of bits and pieces, such as single earrings, that will be given to a jewelry maker or thrift shop.  A collection of antique paper ephemera has been collecting dust.  I thought of someone who might be able to use it in her creations, and she is thrilled to take it.  So, a bit of progress made on the simplifying front.

I enjoyed some of our yellow watermelon for lunch one day.  It had been picked around 10 days earlier, and was rather soft in the middle.  Those bits, and the rinds and seeds went to the chickens.  J enjoyed some for lunch another day, and what he didn't eat went to the chickens.  The evening after we planted carrot seeds a few weeks ago, we had a heavy rainstorm, so a number of the seedlings had escaped the bed.  I transplanted those seedlings back into the bed, and hope they will live.  The kale seedlings seem to be doing well, and there are a few lettuce seedlings.  I made my Swagbucks goal once, and received a sample of catfood in the mail, along with two $3 coupons.

I gathered pawpaws and pears most days.  Many of the pawpaws had to be turned into compost, but I did make pawpaw parfait again one evening, with the last of this year's fresh blueberries.  We keep the chicken coop opened up during the summer. With the storm coming, I covered the window in their coop, and replaced the windows along the bottom of their little enclosed covered yard, to give them some wind protection while eating and drinking.  It feels pretty cozy in there now.   Greens and concord grapes were gathered for them to enjoy several days, and occasional cherry tomatoes.  I used one of our pumpkins, as well as cinnamon sticks and whole cloves from the pantry in a photo shoot for the Pumpkin Chai soap, and listed it in my shop.

As I was getting tight on freezer space, knowing I was going to be staying indoors due to the storm, I decided to simmer and can 2 1/2 gallon bags of frozen vegetable scraps into broth.  Thankful for more freezer room, and a few more jars on the pantry shelf.  I pulled a few carrots and about half of the beets before the storm arrived, concerned about them rotting with all the rain coming.  I also dug the small bed of potatoes we planted from small ones we grew last year.  We knew there wouldn't be much, but there ended up being enough potatoes for 2 meals, so two meals of potatoes we won't have to buy.  I took advantage of another mostly indoor storm day, by taking an online course and test for my massage license renewal, wrapping soap, and writing a letter I'd been putting off.  It's good to cross those off my to do list.

Late in the week, I found another monarch chrysalis in the garden, where I had seen one form a J the day before.  I was pretty sure that meant it was getting ready to form a chrysalis, so it was pretty neat to find.  I checked it on Saturday, about midway through the storm, and it was still there.  Last week, I made my Mom's zucchini soup and Brandy's Tuscan Tomato Bread soup, with our squash, tomatoes and herbs.  A batch of Butternut Chocolate Chip Brownies was made, using homemade vanilla, our eggs, and subbing seminole pumpkin in place of the squash.  I found a free series on Amazon prime, called Pioneer Quest, and have enjoyed it so far.  Watching these types of shows always makes me very thankful for modern conveniences.  During a hard rain, I noticed a good bit of rain flowing over the gutters.  We have guards on our gutters, so during a lull, I went up a ladder, and cleaned off the main rain water collection area, where the two rooflines meet.  Our cisterns are all full now, which is always a good feeling.  The gutter guards don't work as promised, as they still collect leaves and other bits that fall on the roof, but it is easier to wipe them off than having to dig all the detritus out of the gutters as before.

Cleaning up the porch before the storm, I realized I hadn't done anything with the dye pot full of hickory and hazelnut husks.  The liquid looked darker than it had when it started, so I strained it and added the pair of leggings I had originally tried to dye with pine bark.  After a couple of days, the leggings have taken on enough color to be tan or light brown.  I'll leave them a bit longer, and see how they end up.  The sheet I dyed with marigolds was machine washed, and it kept all it's color.  I watched several online tutorials on tying quilts, ordered basting pins to do it, and hope to start on it soon.  All the plants that had been on the porch were moved indoors, to prevent a repeat performance of pots being flung hither and yon during the storm.

There's a plant I'd noticed, but hadn't paid much attention to this summer.  I had thought it was one of the grapes we planted a few years ago, but seeing blooms on it last week made me realize it was a volunteer hibiscus, such a welcome surprise.  I'm thinking it's a hardy hibiscus, but not really sure.  It would be most appreciated if you'd share, if you happen to know this plant. 

I generally try to work on these posts as the week goes by, and am typing these lines on generator power Sunday morning.  The power has been out for an hour or so, and the map shows a rather extensive area out.  I'm loving the jumble of morning glories and day flowers along the garden fence right now.  J emptied the rain gauge today, which holds 5".  It's been raining steadily since,  We were in the 10-15" forecast, but I'm thinking we may get a bit less when all is said and done.

Though it does take diesel to run our generator, J said it's good to run it for a while now and then, so I thought of chores that use electric to do then, instead of paying for the electricity when it comes back on.  I got a load of laundry washed and dried, ground a pan of bread ends into bread crumbs, and vacuumed.  Just a bit over 3 hours, and the power returned. I took advantage of a free listing offer on ebay, and listed six books, part of my decluttering efforts.  I mended a pair of shorts.  For dinner, along with bought corn, I cooked our okra and a new lentil based vegi loaf.  We weren't fans of the vegi loaf.  It was decent, and we'll eat it, but it won't make it into my repertoire.  There's a chickpea based one I still want to try, and there's a nut based loaf I love, but rarely make any more, as it's pretty expensive.   I may have to find that recipe.  Though we've got some warm days coming up, the storm has made it feel like soup and meatloaf (vegi) weather.  I hope you are all staying safe, and wish you a good week ahead.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The September Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  On Labor Day, I prepped eggplant and okra, for my husband to grill.  We had sliced tomatoes to go with it, and made ice cream using our (toasted) hazelnuts.  It gives me such pleasure to have most of a meal come from this land.  Last week, I harvested green beans, okra, tomatoes, basil, eggplant, pawpaws, lima beans, pears and a plum.  Ironing was caught up.  I shopped at Walgreens, getting the Senior discount as well as the equivalent of over $18 in bonus points, plus a $5 off $20 coupon, just getting a few things I needed.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.  I shared pawpaws, tromboncino squash and cherry tomatoes with several people.  A large amount of pawpaws had to be composted, as they're so very perishable, and I just couldn't give them away fast enough.

I celebrated my birthday last week, a landmark 60.  Beautiful flowers arrived from my daughter in spirit.  One bloom was open when they arrived. By the time I returned from out of town, they were a riot of color.  A lovely dinner was cooked by J.  One of my presents was an IOU to attend a festival this fall, one I've been wanting to attend for a few years.  I'll share more about that once we've been.  While we were at the pond, J noticed a good sized Eastern painted turtle on a log.  A sweet friend gifted me this very special book, a peek of it in the top photo.  I've admired it for some time, and had enjoyed a copy from the library.  The illustrations and notations take you through the seasons.  It will be a lovely thing to be able to follow it along as the months go by.

A dear friend and I took a short road trip to Charlotte.  We attended an opening for an artist acquaintance, enjoyed a fantastic concert, and ate extremely well.  The only somewhat frugal part of the trip was shopping at thrift stores, and a discount grocery.  I was happy to find several things for my granddaughter, including rain boots and three pieces of dress up/Halloween clothing.  Favorite finds at the discount grocery were organic crushed pineapple, regular price $3.79 for .99, maple syrup, sale price $4.99 for $2.99, and smoked basmati rice, regular price $15.81 for $1.99/ 2#.

Two friends have been sharing photos of monarch and swallowtail caterpillars, chrysalises, and emerging butterflies.  Last night, I was excited to see at least 10 monarch caterpillars on the milkweed in the garden.  I didn't explore much, as I didn't want to disturb them.  Hopefully, I will spot at least one chrysalis this week.

Another order for a Berkey stand came in while I was away, as well as several inquiries, which means our vacation fund happily continues to grow.  When I returned, the garden had not been picked, and I harvested tomatoes, green beans, eggplant and pawpaws.  I didn't get to the pears or the okra, but plan on doing that today.  I'm sure a lot of the okra will be too large, but they'll make good compost.  On occasion, I open the big pods to give the inner seeds to the chickens, as they love them.  Thanks to McNibs, I didn't get a great deal of sleep last night, so it depends on how much energy I have if that gets done or not.  We've started getting rain, much needed, ahead of the storm.  We'll go over our hurricane prep today, and be ready to batten down the hatches if needed.  Be well and safe, friends!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Early September & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I tried two new recipes on Monday, and both were keepers. It's nice when that happens, because let's face it, cooking from scratch takes some work.  The pawpaw recipe on Sunday was good, but J has come to the conclusion that cooked pawpaws do not agree with him.  He does fine with it raw in a fruit salad, but not so well with it baked in a pudding (think persimmon pudding, but with pawpaws).  I froze the remainder, then shared all of it with several friends.  The keeper recipes were lemon rice salad, shared by Susan Branch, and zucchini gratin, and I'm sorry to say I can't tell where it came from, other than it was adapted from a recipe from Just A Pinch, and the recipe I used was doubled.  I used tromboncino in place of zucchini.  The tromboncino seem to be winding down now, with just a few manageable ones ripening a week.  We're letting one mature, to save seed.  The latest kale planting is germinating well, and there are a few sprinklings of carrots and lettuce coming up.

I gathered just about all that's left of the plums, and made asian plum sauce.  As it ended up being only a 4 oz. jar's worth, I decided not to can it, but keep it in the fridge.  A large basket of lima beans, both dried and fresh were picked one evening.  I decided to take the beans with me to the hair salon the next day, as I  knew I'd be there a few hours.  I expected to be laughed at, but it turns out a woman there ended up shelling more than I did.  The hair salon is a tiny place, with no nails done, and no perms, so not a smelly place to bring food.  I haven't done a hair update in a while.  I suppose I'm still not ready to go gray, as I'm still using Hairprint.  To solve the issue of roots quickly showing up, someone near and dear to me, who is beautiful inside and out, shared that she uses root touch up.  I found a natural one I like, so have started doing that too.  Ah, vanity!

Pawpaws were shared with several friends during the week.   A "free" box was brought up to our little community store, and someone else picked up a box to share at the local animal shelter thrift store.  There are so many ripening, if J can't eat them cooked, that seems the best choice.  It makes me happy that everyone who has tried pawpaws this year has loved them, whereas a few years ago, nobody seemed to like them at all.  If I haven't mentioned before, they've been shown to have some serious anti-cancer properties, so a good fruit to have around.  I brought three beauty berry bushes J dug up to someone who had requested some.  The birds scatter the berries all over, so we have no shortage of seedlings.  I tried a new eggplant dish, called Poor Little Eggplants.  The dish was rather tough that night, but lots better when reheated with some water as leftovers.  I've been enjoying library books, and requested another.  A 40% photo coupon was used from Walgreens, with the cost of a 4 x 6 print at .20.

I passed McNibs one day outside, and noticed an Eastern Painted turtle just a few feet away.   That's the species that laid eggs near the pond earlier this year.  I wonder if we will see many more of them next year.  Yogurt and hummingbird food were made.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  Homemade soap and deodorant were used each day.  Composting, shredding paper and cardboard, and washing out plastic bags for reuse happened too.  I received a $10 off $50 coupon from Tractor Supply, and used it to buy chicken feed and dog food.  The three young roosters were offered free on my fb page, as well as craigslist.  A woman came and got all three on Sunday.  It's amazing how much calmer the chicken yard is without the overabundance of young male hormones.  I will say, I don't enjoy craigslist, with the multitude of messages, and people promising to come, but who never show up.  But in this case, it did serve its purpose, giving us three less mouths to feed and significantly less chaos in the flock. 

My online shops have continued to receive orders and positive reviews, of which I'm most appreciative.  I worked on painting four orders, and made two batches of soap last week.  There were also two local soap sales, a very nice surprise.  I enjoyed meeting my stepmom for lunch one day, then went to my co-op while I was in that town.  I bought a few needed things, including NC apples for .99#.   A canister was found at a new thrift store.  This weekend, I turned it into a compost crock, took photos, and listed it in my shop.   Pasta salad was made using our cherry tomatoes, basil, oregano and home canned olives.  The pups get a few cherry tomatoes with their dinner each night, and usually some pear pieces from ones that have developed a brown spot.  J made us delicious cheese biscuits for Sunday breakfast.  He'd talked about them recently, and I'd never had them, so was delighted he made them.   On the chance that someone reading has pawpaws to work with, I wanted to share this parfait recipe, which we both thought was yummy.  I substituted our blueberries for raspberries, Sucanat for powdered sugar, added a little homemade vanilla, but otherwise followed directions :o).  Happy Labor Day!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Natural Dyeing, Fall Soap & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  As I really needed the freezer room last week, I took out 5 gallon bags of vegi scraps, simmered them several hours, then canned the broth, which added 9 pints to my pantry shelf.  A free dog food sample I requested arrived in the mail. I harvested tomatoes, okra, green beans, lima beans, cantaloupe, tromboncino squash, eggplant, a red pepper, basil, chives, oregano, pawpaws, apples, pears and plums.  The garden harvest, food preserving and cooking are taking up the majority of my days.  That's August for you.  The hens are slowing down on egg production, but we still have more than enough.

Pumpkin Chai soap
There are two seasonal soaps I make.  This week, I made Pumpkin Chai, which will be ready to help usher in the Fall.  I use pumpkin or winter squash grown in our organic garden as one of the ingredients.  Pumpkin is said to soothe skin, contains enzymes that help dissolve old, dry skin cells, and can help with damage caused by free radicals.  Though the recipe remains the same, I do play with the presentation from year to year.  I've done layers and swirls in the past, and do believe this year's is the prettiest yet.

Another two ice cube trays of pawpaw pulp was frozen.  I made the first, and possibly only, tomato pie of the summer, and made this squash dish to use the last of the yellow squash.  Before it gets colder, I decided to enjoy another outdoor shower.  This time, I shared it with a snail. :o)  J made the teak bench for our shower.  He sealed it with linseed oil and beeswax that we had on hand.  I bought the teak on ebay, and the cost was about 25% of what they were selling for online.  This one fits our shower perfectly.

On Thursday, I canned the small fruits.  First came tiny plums. I'd originally tried saving them up for a few days to do something with, but in a couple of days, they went bad.  I gathered about a quart of them, and decided to make plum sauce.  Though I made plain sauce, just plums and sugar, I'd like to use it in asian dishes. I'll probably open a jar and add vinegar, peppers and the other ingredients, and keep it in the fridge to use.  If I can any more of them, I may go ahead and make the seasoned plum sauce, but I knew I had more canning to do that day, and wanted to keep it simple.  Though most of the large tomatoes are rotting from all the rain, there are lots of small and cherry tomatoes.  I decided to turn those into juice.  I did the plums and the tomatoes the same way, cooking them until soft, putting them through the food mill, then reheating and putting in jars.  The tomato skins were dried in the dehydrator, then ground into powder to add to dishes that need flavor.  I thought they looked like festive confetti.

With the leftover tomato pie, I pulled last year's okra from the freezer... we have fresh, but really need to finish last year's.  I also used our tromboncino & tomatoes in a side dish.   I've been harvesting and shelling dried lima beans every few days.  Eggs and tomatoes were used in a breakfast dish.  Yogurt and hummingbird food was made, and eggs were boiled.  Laundry was done on a lovely day with low temps and humidity, and hung on the line.  With the lower temps, baking is again on my mind.  One of the things I've been hankering for is ww chocolate chip cookies, so I ground enough wheat for these and another recipe or two.  Though I've provided a link before, I had a hard time finding it, so I'm going to copy and share the recipe, to make it easy.  I first found it via Diary of a Locavore:


This recipe, from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, has become my go-to. It's about as healthy, straight-forward, and delicious as chocolate-chip cookies can get.

3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 pound cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli's 60% Cacao

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk well.

Combine the butter and sugars in another mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until they are just blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate and stir until just incorporated.

Form the dough into balls—I make mine a little bit larger than golf balls. Arrange the balls evenly on the baking sheets, leaving about 2-3 inches between each one. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool, and repeat the process with any remaining dough.

Note: These cookies are best eaten within a day or two of baking. I like to make a big batch of dough, bake off about a third, and keep the rest in the refrigerator to bake over the next week or two.

marigold dyed sheet
We enjoyed the cookies, and a dinner of Pasta Norma.  Another round of concord grapes was harvested, and 3 more quarts of juice was canned.  The skins and seeds went into the dehydrator, to use in bird suet.  Lambs quarter was gathered and frozen.  A new pawpaw recipe was tried.  If it's a good one, I'll share next post.  Some dye experiments happened this week.

A while back, I'd collected pine bark, which had been soaking in water for several weeks, as recommended.  Sadly, it didn't impart any color on a pair of leggings, except for a couple of dingy looking places.  Happily, I also tried dyeing with marigolds, and it did color the sheet I plan to use as the bottom of the summer bed cover I won at Hospice a pretty yellow.  I'd been keeping all the hazelnut husks, and thought I'd try them next in the dye pot.  After 30 minutes of simmering, there was almost no color in the water, so I added all the hickory nut husks I had saved.  After another hour or so, there was color, though not as much as expected.  I decided to take it off the heat, and let is sit, to see if it deepens.  Most of the online & book research I do on natural dyeing with plants I have on hand turn up nothing or very little, so I will just have to experiment, and see what shows up.  I guess that kind of sums of my philosophy of life too.  Have a great week, friends!

Monday, August 20, 2018

More Mushroom Adventures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Last week, we had a lovely visit with our granddaughter.  She and I spent a couple of hours in the Kids Zone at the zoo, using free passes, then ventured out to visit the polar bears and a playground there.  At home, there were walks, garden harvesting, shelling beans, reading, and she hand sewed and finished a cat stuffy while I attended to my mending pile and helped as needed.  She seemed to enjoy the sewing, and was proud of her finished kitty.  We each got to pick a raspberry, the first ones in a while, and enjoyed the treat.  J fabricated her a metal unicorn while she looked on, and she was pretty excited about that.

Okra and fresh lima beans from the garden were blanched and frozen, 4 servings of each.  Previous years, I put a cup or two of pawpaw pulp in a bag for freezing, but it was hard to cut a chunk off for a smoothie.  In the past, I've broken a knife tip, trying to cut into it.  This year, I decided to freeze the pulp in ice cube trays, so I can just grab some cubes, and throw them in the blender.  That worked splendidly.  A new recipe which used our cherry tomatoes, basil, and pepper was made to use in a pasta sauce.  Once I realized how few tomatoes it used, I upped it quite a bit.  We enjoyed the meal, but will need to do something else with all the other cherry tomatoes soon. I suspect I may be canning them next week.

The asian eggplant are doing well.  I was not using them often enough, and decided to slice, roast and freeze 10 of them for future eggplant parmesan, as we really enjoyed that several months ago.  The next few I pick, I plan to use in Pasta Norma.  The tomatoes are colorful this year with the usual red, as well as yellow, and the Indigo Blue Berries, which look much like cherries.  So far, I'm not impressed with the blue berries taste , but I want to give them a fair chance, when it's not been raining so much.  I couldn't get any more takers on the concord grapes, so I harvested another round, and got a bit over 3 qts of juice.  I may make jam with them in the future, but for now, it's preserved and on the shelf.  There are still quite a few out there.  A caprese salad was enjoyed one night.  I requested two books from the library, to pick up on my next work day in town.

Mushrooms still abound in these woods, and along the paths.  After reading about locally found cinnabar chanterelle in the mushroom fb group I joined, I spotted what appeared to be the same mushrooms in a few spots.  I left most of them, but gathered 6 to try.  They're a small mushroom, so it wouldn't be much more than a taste, but it's always smart to start with small amounts anyway.  The ones I found seem to have all the correct characteristics... the color, the vase shape, somewhat frilly edges, false gills that fork and come down the stem, growing in soil in hardwood forest this time of year.  Here's a little more info, if you're interested.  I also saw a number of Lactarius indigo mushrooms while I wandered.  I may just be ready to try those soon too.  I was hoping the blue latex they exude would be good for dyeing, but research says they are not a good dye plant.  Update:  I sauteed the chanterelle mushrooms in butter.  The taste was so mild, they pretty much just tasted like butter, which is not a bad thing.  I ate them all (J refused), and am still here to tell the tale, with no ill effects 48+ hours later.  I noticed many more patches of them, and it's raining again, so I think I'll be harvesting more in the future.  Please do not decide to eat any mushrooms based on what I say here.  Do significant research, take a class, &/or learn from a pro before you make this decision, as it can truly have dire consequences.

On Saturday, we attended a family reunion of J's, which required a 2 1/2 hr drive each way.  I had picked all the dried lima beans on the vines on Friday, and brought those along in the car, and shelled them on the way.  I also finished reading the Fresh Eggs Daily book in the car, which had a lot of great information that I'll be using.  We had planned to stop for dinner on the way home, but as it was earlier than expected, we decided to instead stop at a brewery J had worked to create, and enjoy a beer, then came home and had a salad with a frozen organic pizza, clearing a bit more room in the freezer.  It was a simple, inexpensive date we both enjoyed.  We still have lots of squash, and I should have made a squash dish to share at the reunion, but honestly, I was needing a break, so we made up a green bean dish instead, and brought several squash to share with an aunt.  We also brought okra to share, but no one was interested, so it came back home with us.  I accepted an assortment of canning jars, some with lids and rings.  Still working on clearing out the freezer, I defrosted a pumpkin/squash bread that J is enjoying.

The cabbage and kale beds came up very skimpily, so we reseeded those.  No chard came up at all, so that was also reseeded.  Collards and rutabagas came up in patches, and they were transplanted out at proper distances.  New carrot and lettuce beds were planted.  A cantaloupe, nice sized potato we had missed, a couple spaghetti squash and two winter squash were harvested after the seeding and transplanting.  We had the cantaloupe for lunch, and were happy it was one with good flavor.  I grated and froze 6 bags of tromboncino squash, for both sweet and savory dishes.  More tromboncino squash, along with our tomatoes and herbs were used in my Mom's zucchini soup for dinner.  During the week, I harvested tomatoes, squash, green beans, lima beans, okra, pawpaws, hazelnuts, plums, lambs quarter, basil, oregano and parsley.  Oh, and the mushrooms of course.  Wishing you a bountiful week, friends.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Moments & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope this finds you well, and enjoying these midsummer days, or winter, if you're in other parts of the world.  Our garden wonder of the week is the tromboncino squash, which is going gangbusters. I've shared several, and have been cooking with it almost every day, using it in "zucchini" bread twice,  pasta sauce, a dish with tomatoes and corn, and zucchini tots for the first time, which we liked.  I wanted to report back on the winter squash ice cream mentioned last week.  It was rather bland, tasting mostly like the pumpkin spices.  I would like to try it again with a more mature squash, as I bet it would give it more flavor.  It wasn't bad necessarily, just not as flavorful as I'd hoped.

I picked concord grapes & juiced and canned them.  I may make them into jam at another time.   The skins and seeds were dehydrated for bird suet.  I offered concord grapes to a friend.  After a good visit, she left with grapes, a variety of squash, and pears, and I was gifted several things for myself and my granddaughter.  I filled out requests for free dog and cat food.  We enjoyed our first watermelon.  It was the best one we've had this year.  The chickens enjoyed pecking the rinds.  While in town for work, I picked up a few things at the grocery store, & used my own bags, saving .15; also stopped by the library, and asked about zoo passes.  I received a free pass for 2, and plan on taking my granddaughter next week, which is a nice savings.

Well, at this point, both J & I have both been rained on in the outdoor shower.  Though there was no rain when we started our showers, by the end we got rained on.  Thankfully, they were just light rains.  I'm happy to report though J has shared the shower with a snake at one point, I have only shared it with bugs :o).  We were using the outdoor shower again because we hired someone to finish the sheetrock in the bathroom redo.  Because J did more of the sheetrock work than he had thought when he first gave us the quote, he knocked $50 off the original price.  I gave him a couple of bars of soap, as he and his wife use and love them, which may not have hurt the final cost either.  We lost power Weds. evening during a thunderstorm for about 3 hours.  We'd already had dinner, and ended up just going to bed.  J has been painting and doing trim work, and it won't be long before the project is done.  Being J is a metal fabricator, I asked if he could create a basin out of copper, to go with the sink.  We had extra pieces of the granite we used for the sink counter, and he suggested we use some of it for the piece at the shower floor, then use some of the same granite used in the shower around the sink, so both areas would have some of each, tying them together.  I think I reported when I bought the granite that it was purchased at less than 10% of list price through ebay.  It's still a construction zone around here, but we're getting there.

One day, I harvested basil, made a double batch of pesto, and froze it.  I continue to harvest marigolds, with plans to dye the bottom sheet for our bed cover.  Swagbucks points were redeemed for a $25 amazon gift card.  We enjoyed an evening out with friends, and some delightful wine paid for with gift cards.  This new to us wine was delicious, helps support veterans, and our price was several dollars cheaper than the listed price, all bonuses in my book.  We picked up an inexpensive meal to have on the outdoor porch, enjoyed the wine, and were serenaded with free music.  A lovely summer's eve, for sure.  A fellow chicken lover friend gifted me the Fresh Eggs Daily book.  Reading it, I was reminded how good herbs are to use in the coop.   I cut back lemon balm, catnip, oregano and chocolate mint.  These were put in nest boxes and scattered on the floor.  We'll have our granddaughter a few days, and enjoy some summer fun.  Plans include time at the Kid Zone of our local zoo, which includes several water features, home grown watermelon, and homemade ice cream.  Summer will be dwindling before we know it.  We plan to enjoy it while it lasts.  Wishing you a most enjoyable week!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mushroom Weather & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Hot, rainy days have made it perfect mushroom weather.  There seem to be so many varieties everywhere.  I recently joined a fb mushroom group in our state, hoping to learn more, especially about which are edible.  Though I've taken a class, I don't feel confident enough to risk it.  Before heading to town one day, I cut up a banana along with our pawpaws and blueberries, for a snack for J & I.  While stopping to return a few things at the hardware store, I checked the marked down plants, and brought home 4 red thyme plants for .25 each.  We planted them in the bed next to the porch, hoping they'll be happy enough to crawl over the rocks, and mingle with the creeping jenny.  Another day, we planted lettuce and broccoli seeds, and replanted chard.  For some reason, I'm having a hard time growing chard this year.  The spring lettuce that had bolted was given to the chickens, with a few plants left for seed.  When planting the lettuce, I noticed both packets were a few years old.  Reading something reminded me that oak leaf lettuce does well in both the heat and the cool, so I ordered both a red and a green variety of it.  I used hay a neighbor gave us to mulch mullein and other plants in a bed near the pond.

Like the pickles, we still have lots of canned summer squash on the shelves, so I am not planning on canning any this year.  I've tried it frozen and dehydrated, and am not fond of either, so we'll eat what we can fresh, and share it with the critters and anyone who wants some.  We shared some with one of J's customers one day, and his business partner and some friends other days.  Our friends gifted J a couple of pieces of their pottery, saying J didn't charge them enough for work he did.  A new batch of throat spray was made, using colloidal silver and essential oils.  For a dinner, I made a dish using summer squash and kalamata olives, one using collards we froze last fall, and cut up cucumbers and tomatoes.  Though the collards look beautiful, like the day they were frozen (we just put a pile of whole leaves with stems in a paper grocery bag, fold it up and tape it), they are getting rather tough.  We've planted some in the fall garden, so with any luck, will be eating them fresh by late September.

After delivering soap to a B&B, I went by two thrift stores.  I bought a shirt at one for $3, and at the other, resisted a gorgeous handmade pottery bowl that would have been a lovely dog dish, but much too expensive at $18.50.  Both stores had been totally rearranged since the last time I was in, and there didn't seem to be near as many good bargains.  I stopped by a market and bought 6/$1 ears of local corn.  It's the second time I've been to this fairly new market, and the owner has encouraged me to try my soaps there.  I'm not sure I want to add another consignment spot, but she may be interested in buying them outright, so I'm considering it.  I received a lovely note in the mail, along with some food gifts from friends I recently helped.  A few days ago, I read of a group that does gleaning of farms in this state, and I signed up to be a volunteer.   I used to do more volunteering when I lived in the city.  It's a bit more difficult living so far from anything now.  I love the idea of the gleaning group, which helps feed the hungry.  Having some knowledge of harvesting produce makes it seem like a good fit.  Being I live in a rural area, I'm hopeful some opportunities will arise that are not too far away.

some of the harvest
I purchased what I hope is the last few things for our bathroom redo, and paid for a portion of it with a gift card.  I got all the potatoes put away and crunched the numbers, and it appears we harvested over 50# of potatoes!  And we still have a small patch left to harvest.  That's much better than we thought.  I got an email invite to Pinecone Research, but like last time, when I put in my info, it said my demographics weren't needed.  It was worth a try.  I received a dollar in the mail from Nielsen, which made me laugh, as we're not television watchers.  They called some years back, and I had to tell them we did not watch TV, but they did have me fill out a diary with the few movies we watched. This time, they followed up with a phone survey, and will be sending "enough for a cup of coffee" as a thank you.  M treated J & I to dinner, as thanks for taking him to the restaurant.  Occasionally, when the local farmers bring their equipment here for J to fix, there are visitors that come along, such as the time there was a bird's nest.  Not long ago, he found a chipmunk in some equipment, which promptly ran under a tarp in front of the shop.  We've been seeing it around the bird feeders, but it moves so quick, it's been tough to get a good photo.  This one's the best I've been able to do.  There were several that lived here before the cats showed up years back.  Now that we're down to one cat, maybe it will have a chance to prosper.  I love to see them, and hope so. 

the elusive chipmunk
On a walk one morning, the sole of one of my muck boots separated from the rest.  I kept walking, picked it up on the way back, and repaired it when I got home. It's a good thing it was fixable, because the next day, I planned to clean the chicken coop, and you definitely want muck boots to do that.  When I cleaned the coop, I brought in a large, interesting limb that had fallen in their yard for extra roosting space.  J plans to add some roosts, but until then, I'm hoping this will help.  I spent some time going through things, and putting things away.  It always feels better when I take the time to do that. J harvested most of the winter squash.  Between all the rain and squash borers, vines were dying and some were starting to rot, so it seemed the time.  We weighed them as we brought them in, and ended up with over 100# of winter squash, with the largest cushaw weighing close to 14 lbs!   The two largest cheese wheel pumpkins had begun to rot, so they were cut up and boiled.  We used 2 1/2 cups of it to make ice cream.  Years ago, I had saved this recipe (scroll to bottom), and thought it was the perfect time to try it out.  It calls for a different winter squash, but I interchange them in other recipes, so why not this one?  I had to make up some pumpkin spice, but that was quick and easy.  J's grilling our potatoes with herbs, okra and summer squash for dinner.  I'm thinking it's a perfect summer homestead dinner. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

It's All About the Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I prepared cucumbers and squash every chance I could.  For one dinner, I made a squash/tomato/corn dish with leftover beans & rice, and asian cucumbers.  I took the same cucumber and squash dishes to a gathering later in the week.  I requested a book from the library.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  As my cold was still hanging on, I continued to eat a good amount of garlic in eggs and hummus.  One of the things in the fridge I cleaned out for friends was a bottle of Kick*ss Immune Support, so I've also been taking that as well.  While catching up on ironing, just 6 pieces, I found two pieces that needed small areas of mending, so I guess next up is mending.  A bag of pumpkin was defrosted, and used in brownies.

From the garden, I'm gathering cucumbers, tromboncino squash, and okra.  My husband went to pick up an order I had placed online from the hardware store, but they had no record of it.  They apparently had a glitch on their website, and I received an email saying they'll be sending me a $5 gift card for the inconvenience.  Thankfully, the order was for one item, unlike recent others for multiple items, so it was easy enough for him to just go get the item.  The $5 will more than make up for the 2% I was to get back from ebates.  We're opening windows on cool nights, and closing them as the day heats up.  This year, I started tomato seeds from a homestead friend, which I believe are called Blue Berries.  Their shoulders start out blue.  I'm curious to find out what they taste like.

While in town for work, I stopped at the salvage store, and found a few good deals... organic chickpeas .50/can, organic juices $1, black olives .50, natural almonds .50/6 oz.  I stopped by the bank and picked up the $100 gift card I won.  Tractor Supply sent a 10% off coupon, so I used that when buying chicken feed, dog treats, and a bag of dogfood that was on clearance.  I made a salad with the last of our lettuce to go along with leftover spaghetti for dinner.  The pups got chopped cucumber each night, and I've been cutting up small apples and pears with brown spots for them.  Not much fruit once I cut away the bad spots, but at least they're getting a few pieces in with their cucumber and kibble.  The chickens are getting cucumbers every day too, as long as we have more than we can use.  This time of year, it's all about the garden... harvesting, weeding, watering, thinning, cooking and preserving... repeat....

I finally got around to roasting the peanuts we grew a couple of summers ago, and recently shelled.  There was only about a cup of nuts, but it made lovely peanut butter, which I enjoyed on crackers.  I weeded and thinned the carrot bed some more.   Weeds went to the chickens and I added the thinned carrots to the broth bag.  There are now 4 gallon bags of vegi scraps, so it soon will be time to make broth.  Though the cucumbers are slowing down, there are still plenty, so I canned a second batch of sweet pickle relish, which used up a bag of red pepper slices I froze last summer.  Elderberries were harvested and cleaned, which filled the remainder of the 1/2 gallon jar of tincture I started last week.  Another day, I picked more and began a second jar.  Removing elderberries from the stems is a rather time consuming chore.  Sitting on the porch with the pups, which reduces the berry stains in the house at the same time, and watching the birds at the feeders helps pass the time.   Elderberry leaves and stems have cyanide-inducing glycosides in them, so you want to remove as much as possible.  The berries do as well, but cooking them makes them safe to use, which I do once I strain it and add honey.  If you're interested in elderberry, I suggest you look into some of the online research.  The first few (purple) green beans were gathered, as well as lima beans.

At week's start, there were 8 peaches remaining, none of them close to ripe.  By Wednesday, all that was left were pits on the ground.  So, out of dozens, we will not have one peach this year.  I'm a good sharer, and believe myself to be compassionate, but this definitely crosses the line.  Now we've begun seeing the squirrels move on to eating our plums.  Besides all the acorns and hickory nuts in the forest, there are lots of sunflower seeds below the feeders they can easily eat.  An occasional piece of fruit is fine too, just not every.single.fruit on several trees.  Grrrr.  We cleaned up the gardens so much, there was not much lamb's quarter this year to harvest.  I'd been gathering it little by little.  Thank goodness it keeps very well in the crisper.  I finally had enough to blanche and freeze 2 cups, which will be enough for one recipe.  Our plan is to dedicate an area for lamb's quarter; just have to decide where that is.  I had bought mushrooms that were marked down on Tuesday.  They looked great, but I knew I needed to use them quick.  J asked for mushroom gravy, which I'd never made.   I'm so glad he asked.  We really enjoyed it over jasmine rice, with cucumbers, our first yellow tomatoes & olives on the side.  The only changes I made was subbing butter for the margarine, and I had no marjoram.  Yum!  We enjoyed the leftovers with our first caprese salad of the year.

Our new shower was ready to use on Thursday.  After taking an outdoor shower earlier in the day to wash my hair, I took another in the shower that night before bed.  Both were lovely.  I'll try to take a photo to share next week.  I gathered marigolds and dyer's coreopsis for future dye pots.  On Friday, three loads of laundry were done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I'm glad I got them in before supper, as we had an unexpected rain shower.  That worked out great, because just a little earlier, J worked up a spot, and we planted two varieties of kale.  Now the seeds are watered in nicely.  Eggplant doesn't last very well once it's picked.  So, when I picked 2 on Saturday, adding to the 2 already in the crisper, I decided to make Pasta Norma.  That was only half of the eggplant needed, so I used some in the freezer from last year for the remainder; perfect, as it was already cubed up.  Yogurt and hummingbird food were made, and the usual washing of plastic bags for reuse, adding fruit & vegi scraps to the compost or vegi broth bag, and shredding paper.  The birds are enjoying the blueberries, and the harvest is dwindling.  I may get one more picking, then leave the rest for the birds.  The concord grapes are starting to ripen now, so they'll be up next.  I see grape jelly in my future.  Have a wonderful week, friends!